I had a friend once, a vivacious, spectacular person, who spent his life motivating and encouraging others. He was a new-ish friend, but one whose company I really enjoyed, and a person who spread sunshine and kindness wherever he was. We got together for coffee sometimes, or met to exercise. He had popped into my head several times that week, thinking I should call and work out the next time we could meet. It was a busy week, and the call stayed on my to-do list.
On Saturday morning, he was gone, leaving so many people shattered. I didn’t understand.
Then few years ago, during a very prolonged dark time in my life, I understood him far too well.
I contemplated very seriously if the world would be a better place without me in it. I definitely had a good number of wonderful people who loved me, and it would not have been obvious to nearly any of them that I harboured such thoughts. It had nothing to with being alone, or not being loved, or anything any of those fine people had or hadn’t done.
I was just bone-tired with trying to be okay for others, tired of being told that ‘this too shall pass,’ or that I had ‘so much to be thankful for,’ or that I needed to ‘focus on the positive.’
So I found myself one day, after walking my children to school, standing, somewhat frozen, at the edge of the train line, wondering what would happen if I just waited for the right moment, then stepped forward…
It was the most terrifying moment of my life. Mostly I felt guilty, then useless. I had absolutely no plan, no solution and so many small things on my shoulders, which seemed to combine to feel like a crushing weight.
My phone rang, and thankfully, it was a quiet, calm friend, just checking in. So I started walking again, not daring to tell them where I had been standing, or what I was thinking. I just lied through my teeth, once again assuming the role of a person coping, until I actually started to again.
Some time later, I dared to divulge that day to some people very close to me, and was almost unfailingly met with fury – how could I? Don’t I know how selfish that would be? Don’t I remember my responsibilities? What kind of mess would I leave behind?
They were scared. I got that then, and I get it now, but if anyone you know or love ever says the same to you, try and avoid that response. That person is just as scared as you, and they are in more pain than you can imagine. It’s not your fault.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day – a day to recognise the part we all have in preventing suicide, to remember those we have lost to suicide and support the loved ones they left behind.
This year, the global theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is “one world connected” – a reminder to us that working together and supporting each other is key to preventing suicide.
“Making sure we connect with people is one of the most powerful ways to help people in distress,” Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive, Judi Clements, says. “If you’re worried about a friend or family member, reach out to them and listen without judgement. Encourage them to get the support or help they need.
“Sometimes people just need someone to really hear them, and then they may be more willing to reach out for help from professionals such as a doctor or counsellor.”
Fortunately, New Zealand’s suicide rate has decreased by over 20% since 2000. That’s a great start. But we need to stay connected, aware, empathetic and patient.
For more information, contact mentalhealth.org or your GP.